Sunday, May 3, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.80: Not Too Precious, Please

evaM-prakaarair api yady upaayair
nivaaryamaaNaa na paraaN-mukhaaH syuH
tato yathaaa-sthuula-nibarhaNena
suvarNa-doShaa iva te praheyaaH

Even if hold off by such means

Faults might not turn back:

In that case, forcibly remove them,
in the order of their grossness,

As if ridding gold of impurities.

While still strongly exhorting the listener to be rid of faults, this verse can be read as antithetical in its approach to the previous verse.

The previous verse upholds the preventive principle of non-endgaining. "By such means" in the first line equals "by preventive means."

In principle, there is no doubt that prevention is better than cure. But this verse, as I read it, reminds us that our fundamental aim is not to adhere to or to uphold -- in a pedantic, self-righteous, precious way -- the preventive principle. Our fundamental aim is to be free of the faults.

The principle of getting rid of faults in order of their grossness, like a man panning for gold, has already been introduced in verses 15.66 to 15.67.

One could argue, citing the preventive principle, that what is of primary importance for a gold-panner is how well he prevents the instigation of faults in himself during the activity of panning for gold -- that he should, in other words, primarily pay attention to the means, which his action of panning, rather than to the end, which is to get gold.

To illustrate the opposite side of the argument, I remember the story of how, when a bomb hit FM Alexander's London HQ at Ashley Place, leaving fragments of glass all over FM's precious Persian rugs, various of Alexander's students were clearing up the mess as a kind of Alexander exercise, moving very "mindfully." When FM came in, if I remember the story correctly, he was singularly unimpressed and told them all to get a bloody move on!

These verses come back so often to the metaphor of gold extraction and refining maybe because this branch of industry is, from mine to foundry, a dirty and sweaty process, requiring heavy raw materials to be hauled to the foundry and thrown into a raging furnace. A person who approached the process in too precious and "mindful" a manner, not wishing his hands to become dirtied and roughened by manual labour, or his face to become scorched by the furnace's glow, might end up without any gold to show for his efforts.

So I see this as the first in a series of four verses exhorting us, in the final analysis, having given due attention to the proper means, to get on with the hard work of freeing ourselves from the faults, doing whatever is necessary to gain that end, not shying away in the manner of a vegan pacifist from the use of requisite force, not pussy-footing around and not being too precious about it.

This Canto is going to conclude by singing the praises of viirya, which does not mean feminist ideology, any more than it means male chauvinism. Viirya means manly endeavour. Manly endeavour is required to get this body free of gross reptilian/mammalian faults and free of subtler human -isms, up to and including true Buddhism.

Free to suffer, free to grieve;
Free in freedom, to believe;
Free to stand up, free to leave;
Free to listen, free to breathe.

EH Johnston:
If they still do not turn away, though combated by such means, then they must be eliminated, like the impurities of gold, by driving them out in the order of their grossness.

Linda Covill:
If they are being restricted by these kinds of method, yet are not reversed, then they must be discarded, like the impurities in gold, by removing them according to their coarseness.

evam: thus, such
prakaaraiH (inst. pl.): m. sort, kind, way, mode
api: even, though
yadi: if
upaayaiH (inst. pl.): m. approach, means, method

nivaaryamANaaH (nom. pl. m. of causitive pres. passive participle ni-√vR: to ward off , restrain): being held back, prohibited, prevented
na: not
paraaN-mukhaaH (nom. pl. m.): having the face turned away or averted , turning the back upon
syuH = 3rd person plural, optative of as: to be

tataH: then
yathaa: in accordance with
sthuula: coarse , gross , rough
nibarhaNena = instrumental of nibarhaNa: crushing , destroying , removing ; n. destruction , annihilation

suvarNa: gold
doShaaH (nom. pl.): m. fault, defect, impurity
iva: like
te (nom. pl.): they, those
praheyaaH = nom. pl. m. gerundive pra-√haa: (1) to drive off ; (2) to desert , quit , abandon , give up; to send off

): to be sent away or dispatched

No comments: